Collective Obsessions Saga: Meet the Characters


Colm Sullivan

Appears in The Advent and Quixotic Crossings

Colm SullivanColm Sullivan was blessed with such perfect physical beauty that he was termed "easy on the eyes" and dubbed "beauty man from Ireland" by Larkin family chef Claude Mondoux. Colm had a mellow temperament with integrity, was moderately educated, and people seemed to trust him instinctively. Colm was a gifted artist, rendering many stunning portraits in his lifetime. His love for Molly Larkin never died, not even after she flung herself from the cliffs on Banshee Point. Later, as he was getting ready to meet his own maker, Colm had ghostly visions of Molly as she appeared cold and wraithlike in his garden . . .


Colm Michael Sullivan (Colmcille Mícheál Súilleabháin) was born on St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 1860 in Malahide, County Dublin, Ireland. His interest in art began at an early age. He was sketching and drawing people and landscapes by the age of seven. He attended St. Andrew's School in Malahide, where his portrait of the school won first prize in 1873.


Colm became keeper of the Robswall Lighthouse in Malahide in 1878, shortly after his eighteenth birthday. Colm's parents, Michaleen and Eibhlín Sullivan, were killed by British soldiers in 1879. Later that same year, Colm's younger sister Bridget died in a house fire. With no family left, Colm set his sights on America.


His boat arrived in New York Harbor in June 1880, when he was hired by wealthy businessman John Larkin to become the first lighthouse keeper at Banshee Point, Maine. It is believed the photograph of Colm below was taken by Claude Mondoux shortly after his arrival in 1880.


Colm Sullivan in 1880 (photo taken by Claude Mondoux).

Above: Colm Sullivan in 1880 (photo taken by Claude Mondoux).

Colm kept a journal from June 1880 to January 1890. The diary was lost after his death in 1933 but was rediscovered in 1995, hidden in a roll-top desk inside the lighthouse keeper's cottage at Banshee Point. It was found by author Angela Page-Cimarelli, who is Colm's great-great-great niece and John Larkin's great-great-great granddaughter.


As well as being the lighthouse keeper and continuing to paint, Colm fell in love with John's daughter, Molly Larkin. They kept their romance secret from John Larkin, who was keen for his only daughter to marry a wealthy man with impeccable social position. Colm and Molly conducted most of their trysts in the lighthouse keeper's cottage, where Colm also painted his lover in a variety of settings.


Their love affair was revealed when Molly became pregnant in late 1880. John Larkin forbade his daughter from seeing Colm again, and forced her to bear twin sons in secret to avoid public scandal. The boys, named Michael Kevin Sullivan (Mick) and John Rory Sullivan (Johnny), were given over to Colm shortly after their birth on June 30, 1881.


Colm married Molly's personal maid Maureen Kelly on November 1, 1880 at the suggestion of John Larkin. The marriage, which was initially a matter of convenience, was undertaken to provide a proper home for the twin boys. For the sake of propriety, both Colm and Maureen claimed to be the biological parents. Sadly, Johnny Sullivan died at the age of five in 1886. Colm and Maureen went on to have one child together, son Aidan Jack Kelly Sullivan (born in 1886), who later became a Catholic priest.


After giving birth to the twins, Molly Larkin suffered from severe depression for many years. She languished in the attic of the family mansion, a stone's throw from the keeper's cottage where Colm lived with Maureen and the children. Molly became addicted to laudanum, rarely leaving the attic space she called home.


On November 26, 1886, Molly left the attic one final time. She visited Colm in the lighthouse, afterward throwing herself from the cliffs at Banshee Point. She was buried in the Larkin Family Cemetery on the estate grounds.


Maureen Kelly passed away in 1910, while Colm went on as lighthouse keeper until his retirement in 1919. He moved to a cottage in Larkin City, which is now the home of his same-named art gallery.


Following the funeral of Larkin family butler Nigel Barton-Brooks in 1930, Colm drives his old friend and Larkin chef Claude Mondoux back to the family mansion. Along the way, the two men talk about Molly Larkin:

"Tell me, Beauty. If you get to heaven and Mademoiselle Molly is there to greet you instead of Maureen, what will you do?" Claude asked.

Colm did not seem surprised by the question. He and Claude were on the same wavelength because he had wondered the same thing many times before.

But Colm was slow to answer. Finally, he responded: "If I see Molly in heaven she will be free of her pain and the demons in her mind. She will be like the girl I first met that summer season forty-six years ago. I picture her holding Johnny's hand with a welcoming smile on her face."

"And?" Claude prompted him, keenly interested in the answer but hardly shocked by Colm's admissions.

"I would take Molly's hand and I would gather Johnny close," Colm said softly. "I would be home, once and for all."

Even though Molly Larkin has been dead for forty-three years, Colm begins to experience ghostly visions of his former lover. As he paints in his cottage garden one day, he feels a presence other than his own:

Colm continued to work, humming to himself as he deftly stroked the canvas with his paintbrush. He had been painting for the better part of an hour when all of a sudden he felt the hairs rise on the back of his neck. Someone was in the garden, watching him.

He laid the brush on the easel ledge, setting his paint board face-up on the garden table next to him. He wiped his hands on a small towel tied to one of the belt loops on his trousers.

"Can I help you?" he asked without turning around.

Silence greeted him.

Colm sighed, standing up from his chair. He turned around, expecting to see a vagrant standing in his garden. Instead, the vision before him took his breath away and set his heart pounding with fear. It was Molly Larkin, looking like she did the last time he saw her . . . forty-three years ago.

Colm blinked his eyes, willing the image of her away. But when he opened his eyes, she was still there.

She was staring at him, her regard expressionless. There seemed to be a white, muted fringe around her figure, as if she were suspended in time. She was hollow-cheeked, pale and thin just as she had been on the last night of her life, but her beauty was still haunting. The hood of her dark green cloak was thrust back and resting on her shoulders. He looked at her hands, which held open the cloak, and he could see they were still bony and blue-veined.

"What do you want?" Colm cried, grabbing the back of his head with his left hand. "You're dead, for pity's sake. Am I losing my mind? Are you here for a reason?"

She smiled then, her lips parting slightly. "You are not losing your mind," she said in a cool whisper. "I'm only here because you want me to be here. I waited a long time to hear your voice."

Colm shook his head. "Nonsense. I don't want you here."

"Your thoughts brought me here," she said gently. "You've thought about me ever since I fell from the cliffs, haven't you Colm?"

He turned away from her, trying to convince himself he was having a hallucination, but then the cold caress of her hand smoothed over his shoulder.

"Don't be scared, Colm. I'm not here to hurt you."

"But you're dead," he insisted. "And you didn't just fall from the cliffs. You threw yourself onto the rocks at Banshee Point."

"All true. Please, Colm, look at me."

He turned again and found her only inches away from him. He was weak at the knees, terrified by her presence.

Molly smiled again. "That's better. There is nothing to fear, Colm. When I died, you and I weren't really through with one another. Before my last night on earth, you went on with your life while I lived in despair, true, but there was never a proper end for us. My father saw to that, with his almighty interference and righteousness. You were forced into a marriage with my maid to save face for our children . . ."

Colm found the courage to face her ethereal image, meeting her eyes for the first time. "My marriage to Maureen may have been a convenience at first, but I loved her in the end."

"Like you loved me?" Molly questioned.

He was defeated. "No. There was never the love . . . nothing like I felt for you."

"That's better," she said, gladness in wraithlike her eyes. She glanced at his hair, his hands, and his body. "You've held up remarkably well, Colm. If only my father had left us to our own devices, we could be alive together right now, enjoying our twilight years in peace."

Every time she spoke, Colm could feel her icy breath on his face. Was it because she was dead, and as eternally cold as the earth? He still felt as light as air, as if he were in the middle of a surreal dream. "You're dead, so you must be seeing your father in the confines of heaven. Have you talked to him, confronted him with your anger?"

Her eyes grew dark, almost turning black. "What makes you think I went to heaven?" she countered in a whisper.

Colm recoiled in horror, perspiration forming on his brow. "You came from hell?" he asked, trepidation in his voice.

"That's one theory," she said softly, her non-earthly wisp of a voice sending a shiver through his body. She evaded a direct answer to his question. "I'm Catholic, and I killed myself. What other logical conclusion is there to my ultimate fate?"

Colm's eyesight dimmed and he felt his limbs turn to water. Turning away from her, he found his chair by the easel and sat down. His brain rattled: "I'm talking to Molly Larkin, who is fresh from hell to see me . . ."

Colm Sullivan died in 1933, at the age of seventy-three. He is buried in the Larkin City Cemetery, between his wife Maureen Kelly and his son Johnny Sullivan.



The Colm Sullivan Art Gallery opened to the public on Friday, April 18, 2008 (re: Megan's Legacy). The opening occurred nearly seventy-five years to the day after the death of its namesake Colm Michael Sullivan, a condition which was stipulated in his last will and testament in 1933.

The Larkin's gave me much upon my arrival in America, so I feel they should have the humble largesse of my artwork. Molly and John always admired it so. However, my desire to keep the artwork from public display until seventy-five years after my death insures that no one depicted in the paintings will be alive to judge or react in anger. One day everyone will understand my actions, and it is my earnest hope that no one will think too harshly of me.

Colm's last will and testament also stipulated that any proceeds earned from the display of his artwork must go to a worthy cause. Profits are currently distributed between the Fishermen's Benefit Fund, the Larkin Medical Relief Association and the Animal Life Centre (Larkin City's no-kill animal shelter).


The Colm Sullivan Art Gallery is housed in a cottage on Cove Hollow Circle in Larkin City, Maine, once the private home of Colm Sullivan. After Colm's death in 1933, the cottage was occupied by his grandson Jean-Claude Sullivan for seven years. Roddy Larkin purchased the cottage in 1940. The cottage was maintained for several decades by the Larkin family, but was never leased or occupied until it was designated as the site for the art gallery in 2007.


Colm Sullivan's retirement cottage in Larkin City, now the site of the Colm Sullivan Art Gallery.    The cottage garden where Colm painted during the last years of his life amidst ghostly visions of Molly Larkin.

(Pictured above, from left): Colm Sullivan's retirement cottage in Larkin City (now the site of the Colm Sullivan Art Gallery) and the cottage garden (right), where Colm painted during the last years of his life amidst ghostly visions of Molly Larkin.


Megan Larkin is director of the Colm Sullivan Art Gallery.


She is also the proud great-great-great-granddaughter of both John Larkin, founder of Larkin City, and Colm Sullivan, former lighthouse keeper and artist extraordinaire.

Deidre Dalton

Excerpts from Quixotic Crossings ©Deidre Dalton. All rights reserved. Books in the Collective Obsessions Saga by Deidre Dalton may not be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission from the author. All eight books in the saga are works of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

*Author's Note: The physical appearance of Colm Sullivan is based on British actor Jason Connery. The image is not meant to be indicative of true personality traits of a real person, but rather a general idea of what I envisioned as the "outer shell" of a fictional character.


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